Working World : The winning series of articles!

Motivating factor - The Winnipeg Free Press Sat Oct 28 2006

  • Employee encouragement translates into strong performance
  • We all know employees are the front-line people who translate our business plans into action. We all know how important employees are to good customer service and the retention of loyal clients. And we all know that employee motivation translates into strong performance and overall company productivity.
  • So, the question for management is, how do we sustain a high level of employee motivation over the long term? However, the answer is not so simple. It requires that managers not only understand the concept of motivation but also how to practise it in the workplace. Motivation is described as a set of processes or factors that drive and energize an employee toward a goal. They are voluntary choices that influence productivity, career direction and job satisfaction.
  • In the workplace, these motivators often include factors such as the desire to work in a larger, stable organization versus a small one, the need to work in an autonomous fashion, to be able to excel at either a technical and/or managerial task or to have an opportunity for a variety of challenges. For some employees, their motivation is to have a balanced lifestyle, to work in a job where their social skills can be used to help people and/or they are motivated by working in a fast-paced business environment.
  • One of the best-known theorists, Abraham Maslow, identified a hierarchy of personal needs ranging from the motivation to satisfy the most basic needs such as a paycheque to meeting the highest levels of self-esteem and self-actualization. Frederick Herzberg, on the other hand, saw employee motivation as a two-step process. He suggested that motivators are linked to job content such as interesting work, the opportunity to advance, a sense of achievement, recognition and skill growth possibilities. Herzberg went on to identify a set of factors called hygiene factors that could result in dissatisfaction and demotivation. These factors included working conditions, company policies, pay, organizational status or job security. Interestingly enough, Herzberg indicates these factors do not in and of themselves cause motivation, but without their presence, employees will be demotivated. Developing and encouraging employee motivation requires management to fully understand how to ignite both the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators for employees and to implement policies, processes and practices that are successful in energizing your team.
  • Some of the following suggestions can be effectively applied in any size of organization. Create a passion for your company – Every employee wants to feel a sense of belonging and to be part of a bigger mission and goal. This can be done by involving employees in developing and/or revising the mission and vision for your company. Make every effort to develop a strong sense of employee identity with the products and services of your company. Make them proud to work for you. Identify personal motivators – While each person is different, it is relatively easy to identify personal motivators. Observe what is important to your employees. Watch and look for what interests them. Are they always looking for new challenges or do they need to have stability and structure? Ask employees what they are good at and what they like to do – these are often strongly linked to their personal motivators. Demonstrate interest in your employees – Show your employees that you care. Learn about them and their families. Be visible throughout your company, stop and talk to people, inquire about their work projects. Show an interest in who works for you and what they do. Match skills to jobs – When recruiting, make sure you identify the key skills required for each job and that your candidate’s are well-matched to the tasks and activities. Those who love their work will achieve high levels of job satisfaction and will be highly self-motivated. Set clear direction and priorities – Every employee wants to know exactly what they’re supposed to do and when. This enables them to set personal goals and to gain a sense of achievement when they finally do complete their work. Demonstrate respect – Respect in the workplace is key to providing a positive workplace environment. Ensure that behaviour and language is polite and courteous, that people are addressed and treated in a positive manner and that people don’t forget to use please and thank you. Then deal with any in appropriate behaviour immediately. Create formal systems – You can’t just count on intent because the busy world of business will erode your good intentions. Create formal organizational systems to reward and recognize your employees. Hold frequent employee meetings, create an employee recognition program, make employee achievement a reason for celebration. Customize your rewards – Rewards don’t have to be grandiose and they don’t have to involve a raise or a bonus. In most cases, employees will much more appreciate extra time off, tickets to an upcoming concert or sports game or special recognition at the next staff meeting. But be sure that recognition is timely. Share your customer’s voice – We all know that customers will quickly write a letter of complaint but many will also take the time to let a business know when they are very satisfied with a product or service. Share this correspondence with employees who were involved in the transaction. Let others know of this success. Communicate, communicate, communicate – Communication is a highly prized skill among employees, equal to the need for technical skills. But the same applies to communication from the company to its employees. It’s well-known that companies with good performance have good communication processes that help to reinforce trust and loyalty. Establish formal information delivery vehicles and use them frequently. Business leaders recognize that employee motivation is one of the keys to success and are always looking for new and innovative ways to influence their employees. Yet the answer is not found in elegant corporate solutions but rather in the culture of an organization created by such simple things as taking an interest in employees, ensuring respect at all times, well-rounded communication, and a passion for the work.
  • Source: Supervision, Gemmy Allen, Management Modern, 1998, Ignite the two fires of employee motivation, Darrell Zahorsky, About Small Business Information, 2006
  • Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC, is president of BowesHR and a partner with Legacy Executive Search Partners. Reproduced with author’s permission.  
  • Learn how to bounce back - Winnipeg Free Press, Sat Aug 5 2006
Resilience necessary in fast-paced business world
  • LUCKY you! Yes, I can see you, feet up on the banister, coffee cup in hand, enjoying the lakeside view from your rented cottage. It’s peaceful, it’s beautiful and so good for the soul. After all, it has been a relaxing, rejuvenating and enjoyable vacation; a reprieve from the fast-paced work world. But I also know that as your vacation time winds down, you’re more and more haunted by thoughts about returning to work. I even sense a growing fear that you just can’t keep going at the fast pace experienced over the past few years. You’re worried about the energy and strength it takes to maintain that high level of personal performance so critical to career success. Yet at the same time, recognition of the high cost of overwork on your health and well-being continues to smack you on the head. But let’s face it: the world around us is tumultuous and is changing at record-breaking speed. And while we watch the distant global conflicts on television, we’ve come to learn that there’s no such thing as “distance” when it comes to impact on our local economies. In addition, everyone is fully aware that product and business cycles have been dramatically shortened, competition is fierce and companies are feverishly applying downsizing, rightsizing and merging strategies in order to survive. No wonder many employees and organizational leaders feel as though they are on a never-ending treadmill. But you have to bounce back from these adversities.
  • You have to develop both personal and career resilience because there’s no two ways about it; chances are that at some point you will experience life-altering changes such as job loss, death in the family, family breakup or a serious illness. As can be expected, these events force people to engage in difficult personal journeys as they deal with severe emotional reactions and personal distress.
  • Thankfully, resilience, or the ability to adapt in the face of adversity is something that you can learn. It requires that you retain a positive and optimistic attitude about your own skills and abilities, recognize and manage your emotions, engage in objective problem-solving, and make realistic plans. Developing personal and career resilience takes time and energy, so embark on this challenge now and be ready for whatever comes your way. Keep things in perspective – face up to your new reality by naming or labelling the challenge you are facing but be sure not to view the challenge as a catastrophe. Recognize that you may not be able to change the event but you can change how you interpret it. Remind yourself this bad or challenging time is a temporary time. Focus on the future and be confident you have the skills and strength to deal with whatever comes your way. Don’t let anything crush your pride and confidence. Nurture yourself – take steps to protect your spirit. Let yourself experience strong emotions, but reach out to family, friends, colleagues or counsellors for help. Share your feelings with others or write them down in a personal journal. This releases tension and reduces stress. Do something positive for yourself: go for a massage, buy a new book or go for a leisurely walk.
  • Become self-aware – engage in some self-reflection about your job, your career goals and your skill sets. Are you doing what you are really good at and like to do? If not, what can you do about it? Is your career in jeopardy because your skills are outdated? Where else can your skills be applied? Recognize that your personal identity is not tied to your job title. Separate who you are as an individual from the work that you do and remember that you are really a bundle of skills that are transportable. Develop personal goals – set goals that are realistic and achievable in the short term and then create an action plan that starts immediately. Procrastination and resistance haunts us when we are in distress, so plan hour by hour if you have to. Review your action steps every day and check them off as you accomplish each one. Pride and confidence will return with each small step of success. Build a strong, external connective network – career resilience is best supported by a strong professional network that keeps you in the loop. Networking creates relationships and enables you to become the “known entity” when it comes to job opportunities. Your network will also act as a strong support group when challenges do come your way. Reciprocal helping of one another will lead to career sustainability. Understand organizational influences – learning to “read” your organization and the people dynamics within it is important to personal and career resilience. Identify the power brokers, determine their influence and reflect on how this impacts on your and your career. Learn where and how you can make a difference and take steps to contribute.
  • Seek out a mentor/coach from amongst the influential leaders and learn how to excel within your organizational dynamics. Pitch in and learn – there is no such thing as “that’s not my job” in today’s workplace. Pitch in wherever you can. Learn as many other skills as possible. Make yourself into a versatile and indispensable employee who takes on new challenges, is willing to try new ways of doing things and who can be counted on during times of challenge. Versatility creates job security, enhances self-esteem and personal confidence. Reprioritize your life and work– if you are racing on a treadmill, then you’ve probably lost touch with your priorities. Look around and determine if some of your work can be delegated. Examine work tasks to see if they can be eliminated. Reset your timelines to reduce the pressure. Take regular breaks to refresh yourself. Give your clients and bosses more realistic timeframes… buy yourself the gift of time. Have the courage to act – thinking alone will not improve personal or career resiliency, you have to take action! You can’t allow yourself to be paralyzed by insecurity and anxiety. Be confident in who you are and what you want to do. Build supports around you and go for it.
  • Transitioning back to the workplace after a relaxing vacation can be traumatic, especially for someone who is concerned about keeping up in a fast-paced environment. But the pace of change is not going to slow down, so the only thing you can do is improve your resiliency. Get started now!
  • Source: Ten Ways to Increase Your Career Resilience, Mary Lynn Pulley, A Personal Strategy for Engaging and Building Your Resilience, University of California, San Francisco Human Resources Dept.
  • Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC, is president of BowesHR a leading human resource consulting firm. She can be reached at or Reproduced with author’s permission.